I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

School Board Legal Team Wins Huge Case—Saves District over $350,000.00

From the ECSD General Counsel’s announcement email:

“We have received the attached order from the First District Court of Appeal on the Benson case which dealt with placement on the salary schedule and back pay for teachers with out of state experience. You may recall that last year the Board adopted an order finding which rejected the DOAH Administrative Law Judge's findings in the case and declined to adopt his recommended order. The First DCA issued a Per Curiam Affirmed opinion, which means that the Court found the school board's ruling to be clearly without error, with no need for discussion of legal issues. … It is my understanding that this decision saved the district in excess of $350,000 in pay sought by these plaintiffs, plus an unknown amount for similarly situated employees who could have made a claim if the plaintiffs succeeded.”

This case has been long and drawn out, beginning in the Circuit Court on April 2, 2007--but for all intents and purposes it is over as of this past Friday’s Per Curium Affirmation from the District Court of Appeals.

What I like about this outcome is that it is ending properly. The district was fair and consistent in step placement for both in-state and out of state teachers who were new to the district, and it’s nice to do the right thing for all teachers and to come out on top and not be penalized by the courts.

Due to some changes in Florida Statutes over the past few years, a situation apparently arose which allowed some current and former employees to state that they were not paid fairly and not adequately compensated for their years of teaching experience--- and this lawsuit erupted.

Now that we have prevailed, we can look at section 18 of the original Recommended Order and see what a handful of employees would have won if their lawsuit would have been successful. (plus legal fees!)

The eight current and former teachers were to be paid between $3,000.00-$80,000.00 each. One would have received over $100,000.00 in back pay had the district not prevailed

This is a huge victory that will preclude others from filing similar suits against our district (and the other 66 Florida School districts as well) This conclusion is equitable, and ensures that out of state and teachers and teachers retired from other state school districts do not have an advantage over Florida and Escambia County retired teachers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Minutes Of board Meeting 2-15-2010

I am posting these minutes to expedite information dissemination. Much more complete and detailed minutes will be posted in 4-6 weeks on the school district’s website. In the mean time, these minutes are what I feel were the big “takeaways”, a macro look at my impression of the meeting. These are condensed, abbreviated, shortened, and to the point.
Meeting convened at 5:30 PM
All Board Members and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas present.

two Speakers addressed the board during Public Forum
Carissa Bergosh, NAS Pensacola School Liaison Officer, spoke about upcoming events in our schools
1 Speaker addressed the board and demonstrated mental gymnastics techniques—“Brain Gym” that she is using in her classrooms in Escambia County.
Pledge of Allegiance led by Lipscomb Elementary School Student McKenzie Fleming, with help fromer sisters Shelby and Katie
Recognition of PHS Football Team Class 3-A Champions
Recognition of PHS Academic Championship team
PTA Presentation—given by Kathie Lasky
Stellar Employee Recognition—Fond Philes, a 15 year employee of the district, currently serving as teacher assistant at Helen Caro Elementary School
Florida School Related Employee of the year, Barbara Baskett, 23 year teacher from Lipscomb Elementary School.
Half cent sales tax committee report and update given by Ashley Bodmer
Florida Innovative and technological principal of the year distinction awarded to Lesa Morgan from West Florida High School of Advanced Technology.
Tim Willis, band director from Bailey Middle School, was recognized for outstanding achievement by the Florida Bandmasters association
The Following resolutions were passed unanimously by the board
UWF Science and Engineering Facility—Approved 5-0
Dads in Schools Week—Approved 5-0
Military Recognition Day—approved 5-0
Rule adoptions:
Notice of Intent to Adopt Amendments to School District Rule 6GX17-4, Instruction Approved 5-0
Adoption by Resolution naming West Florida High School of Advanced Technology’s Baseball complex the “Marc Conti Baseball Complex” as approved by the West Florida High School of Advanced Technology Selection Committee at it’s December 17, 2009 meeting, and advertisement approved by the School Board at its regularly scheduled meeting on January 19, 2010. approved 5-0
Permission to Advertise:
Notice of Intent to Advertise to Amend School District Rule 6Gx17-5—Business Affairs, Approved 5-0
3 sets of December and January Board Meeting Minutes Approved, 5-0
Entire Consent Agenda Approved.
All Curriculum items approved
All Finance items approved
All Human Resources items Approved
(Note: two speakers spoke to the Board on the salary settlement issue, reporting that the ratification vote among the teacher’s union had taken place and the ratification passed by 95% to 5% margin)
All Purchasing items approved
All Operations items approved
(Entire Consent Agenda was meticulously covered and discussed at length during two thorough school board workshops held during the afternoon and early evening of 2-10-2010 and the morning of 2-11-2010)
Board voted unanimously, 5-0, to accept the superintendent’s recommendation regarding the following:
Student recommendations:

26 Students disciplined as follows:
1 Student had previous expulsion recommendation overturned

25 Students Expelled
Infractions included:
10 Drug possession

5 Disruptive Behavior

2 attempted arson

4 possession of a weapon

1 fighting

4 Sexual Misconduct

4 Employee Recommendations by Superintendent approved unanimously by board, to include:

1 Employee terminated

1 Employee suspended without pay for 3 days

1 Employee suspended without pay pending conclusion of criminal case

1 Employee Mr. Stephen Eitling, former teacher from Pine Forest High School, appointed by the Superintendent to be the new IB Middle School Coordinator at Workman Middle School

Meeting adjourned at 7:07PM

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Battle Lines Being Drawn Statewide on Class Size Amendment Revision

From the

“While the politicians work to pass a modified Class Size Reduction Constitutional Amendment in the fall that may or may not succeed, school boards will have to comply with current language without the money to do so”

Read the full article here

Yeah, that statement above pretty much sums it up.

That’s the reason this is an item I put on the agenda for this Thursday’s School Board discussion workshop. (Thursday, Feb 11 3PM Mcdaniel Bldg Downtown) Funding is going to be an issue if we intend to follow the law to the letter. I think a more important question is this—“what will the sanction/penalty be for those districts that do not comply?”—let’s face it-there will be many districts that will be unable to meet the requirements and will be out of compliance. I’m going to ask about Escambia’s plan to be in compliance at this meeting. We’ll see what the feedback will be from district staff.  I know that as a district we have done a good job with implementing the class size provisions thus far and spending class size dollars for class size projects.

Papers around the state are lining up to support Senator Don Gaetz’s proposed amendment to the 2002 Class Size Amendment in order to add some flexibility into the final phase of class size implementation.  I thought this article in the Panama City News Herald was right on target.  I also liked this one, this one and this one from Orlando.

Unfortunately, there will be some entrenched special interests that will rail against this needed remedy to the law.  These entities will scream and cry and yell and point fingers, I mean, who cares about the lack of money in the state budget?.  Some of these folks who will remain intractable on this issue must think we print money in Tallahassee!  (no, that's what they do in Washington D.C.)--and this hysteria and mayhem may be enough to derail the measure from achieving the necessary votes for passage in the fall.  That would be a shame.

I like small class sizes, I think they are beneficial.  But I don't believe that small classes are the one size fits all panacea--I think it has a lot more to do with having a great, effective teacher.  Some of the best courses I ever took in college were taught by one teacher and an assistant, and some of those classes had 70-100 students.  I took an Astronomy course that had over 120 students in attendance in a huge auditorium--and one amazingly great teacher and two aides.  I think teacher quality is a bigger factor in making classes more successful--not a mandated size cap---particularly in grades 9 and up.  There are arguments that can be made that the research is thin on the side of small class size benefits outweighing tremendous costs.  But that's another argument for others to have later;  We have to follow the law as it is currently written because it is the law--But I do think an inflexible formula to mandate firm fixed class sizes at the individual school classroom level(irregardless of economic realities and logistical nightmares outside our windows) is a recipe for disaster and/or blatant non-compliance by many.

It will be interesting to watch this play out.